Australian Aboriginal Culture and Beliefs: Explained

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Students want to learn about aboriginal culture and beliefs in Australia.


Australia is a multicultural society, and the most significant part of this multicultural milieu is the "First Peoples" of Australia, representing the oldest surviving civilisation on earth.


Australia has two types of indigenous people — Aboriginal people and Torres Strait Islander people.


Archaeological proof shows these people have lived on the continent for about 70,000 years. Today, roughly 650,000 indigenous people live in Australia — approximately 3% of the national population.


While the majority of Indigenous Australians live in urban areas, a few reside in remote settlements, including former church mission sites.

If you're interested in learning more about Indigenous culture in Australia, continue reading this post.



1. Indigenous Culture Is Still Active Today


The indigenous culture in Australia belongs to the distant past, but that doesn't mean it's extinct. Even in the 21st century, rituals, art and tales keep the Torres Strait and Aboriginal traditions alive. 


The indigenous population continues to grow. Over the next two decades, Australia will have more than one million indigenous people, nearly 4% of the national population. 



2. They have Different Languages


Language defines the true identity of the indigenous people living in Australia. They use the language they speak to express what they know and feel.


Many different Torres Strait Islander and Aboriginal languages have been spoken throughout Australia for thousands of years. These languages are a vibrant and unique part of the heritage. 


Studies had shown about 250 Aboriginal languages in Australia when Europeans arrived. Also, these languages had complex grammar and comprehensive vocabulary. Presently, there are around 145 Torres Strait Islander and Aboriginal languages. 


However, out of them, only 18 languages are spoken by people of all age groups.  



3.Dreamtime and Tagai – The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Spiritual and Cultural Identity


The Dreamtime - Also known as Dreaming, the Dreamtime describes Aboriginal existence on earth, their creation, and spiritual beliefs.


Most dreaming stories tell how the ancestor spirits of the Aboriginal people came to earth in human form and created rocks, plants, and different other landforms. This is why sites like Uluru and Ayers Rock in Northern Territory are sacred to Aboriginal people. 


The Dreamtime stories, dances, ceremonies, and songs are passed through generations and represent an essential part of Australian indigenous culture.  


The Tagai is the spiritual belief system of Torres Strait Islanders, which states that everything has its place. The Tagai system connects the people to the order of the world and portrays the Torres Strait Islanders as sea people. 



4. There is No Single Indigenous Culture


The Torres Strait Islander and Aboriginal people in Australia have diverse social groups, each maintaining its own beliefs, language, and culture.


Even though these groups have several similarities, many differences also exist, which are unique in their way. 



5. Music Plays a Significant Role in Indigenous Culture


Aboriginal instruments such as clapping sticks and the didgeridoo play a massive role in indigenous culture. Also, many contemporary bands and singers in Australia highlight indigenous culture through their music. 


Some popular bands and singers include A.B. Original, Medics, Dan Sultan, and Emily Wurramara.



6. Indigenous Culture Is Not Just Limited To The Outback


Most of the indigenous population is urbanised. Regardless of the image of Torres Strait Islanders and Aboriginal people, the indigenous people don't just stay in the Outback.


Around 44% of the indigenous population live in regional towns, 35% reside in major cities, and 21% live in remote areas. 


This percentage demonstrates that the 'First Peoples' exist in urban areas.



7. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art


The Torres Strait Islander and Aboriginal cultures comprise the oldest form of art in the world. Just as various indigenous languages are unique to several cultures, Indigenous art also holds a different meaning to different cultural groups in Australia. 


Styles and colours vary from one indigenous group to another, as do the stories' messages. They use symbols to describe a message, and the art form continues to tell stories passed on from one generation to the other.


Some popular art forms include dance and dot paintings, which are widely known worldwide. All in all, today, indigenous art gives employment opportunities to people and has become a significant cultural pride for Australia.



8. Indigenous Traditions Are Passed Down through Stories


The word 'Dreaming' does not correctly describe or capture the profound existence of the indigenous culture. However, it speaks about the notion of 'everywhen', a spiritual outlook of the world, comprising the present, past, and future. 


The Dreaming still exists in creatures and places surrounding us. This cultural awareness is spread from one generation to the other through rituals, oral stories, and songs. 



9. Sport is a Popular Form of Recreation in Indigenous Culture


Jardwadjali and Djab Wurrung people living in Victoria played Marn Grook for years. Marn Grook is a collective name given to the traditional Australian indigenous football game played by more than 100 players at celebrations and gatherings. 


This game inspired the invention of Australian Rules Football, to which indigenous players have primarily contributed. Australian football is not the only sport in which Torres Strait Islanders and Aboriginal people participate. They also excel in different areas, such as netball, softball, and other Olympic sports.  



10. Wrapping Up The Post


Even today, Torres Strait Islander and Aboriginal communities maintain strong connections to their beliefs, traditional lands, and language. They see the entire world with a spiritual lens, making them unique in their community. 


Visit the Australian Museum's website to learn more about Australian Indigenous history and culture.


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